Eye tests for the homeless
HOMELESS and disadvantaged people often miss out on basic health care and find themselves in an ever decreasing downward spiral but a Stockport optician is breaking that circle organising free eye tests and donating spectacles.
Christine Wrenn, executive director of A H Mertons part of The Valli Group and a supporter of The Wellspring, Stockport’s only 365 day a year hostel for homeless people, wanted to do more and volunteered to organise free eye tests for their members at their Stockport practice Aarons Opticians based on Petersgate.
“The Wellspring is a great service for Stockport’s homeless offering shelter, food and the chance for a warm shower, yet I wanted to use our professional skills in practice to look after their eye health and vision,” she explained.
“The homeless are often excluded from healthcare because they have no address and therefore cannot get benefits such as free eye tests. It is a downward spiral. The Wellspring is unique because it makes the people it supports members so they can therefore use the hostel address to claim for free eye tests under the NHS.
“To maximise the opportunity I spoke to members when I volunteered for Wellspring on New Years day when more people call in, introducing Aarons practice and explaining the service we ere offering. Altogether five people booked. The results were amazing. Some had never had their eyes tested, one gentleman was 56 and it was his first test. In all four of them needed spectacles.”
That was when Aarons stepped in again. “Being homeless many members of The Wellspring are not eligible for any benefits; those that are have to manage them and often struggle. We helped them access free eye tests and then Aarons donated the spectacles,” said Christine.
And as she explained it wasn’t just their eye sight that was improved by the initiative. “Providing free spectacles did more than improve their eyesight – it boosted their self esteem.
“One gentleman, Greg, enjoys watching snooker; he hadn’t realised that his blurred vision could be corrected. We fitted him for some new glasses and it really made his day. A long standing member of The Wellspring he had never had a sight test and is thrilled with his new glasses which had helped him with his distance vision.
“Everyone at Aarons was lovely and friendly and looked after me really well – with my new glasses watching the snooker final was so much better!” said Greg.
Jonathan Billings is the project manager at The Wellspring. He was delighted that Christine volunteered to carry out eye tests and organise the administration behind it.
“The Wellspring has been delighted to have received such fantastic support from Eye Care for Life at Aarons of Stockport. The practice has been offering free eye tests and follow up support to nyone who is homeless or disadvantaged in Stockport, many people have taken up this offer and have had some brilliant support with their own eye care. We would highly recommend the services provided at Aarons and very much look forward to working together in the future.”
Christine is now hoping to offer further eye tests and that some of the very nervous members at The Wellspring will turn up.
“For people like Greg it can be a major event, my concern was they all felt relaxed and at ease and that they persuade more members of The Wellspring to take up our offer next time we do it.”